Mat Zo, Arty, will.i.am (Getty Images)
That crazy will.i.am. not only is he the leader of multiplatinum act the Black Eyed Peas, but now he has a budding solo career with his new hit "Let's Go."
With the track, will.i.am has joined an elite list of legendary song thieves and he admitted as much during a recent radio interview. He came clean and said that Arty & Mat Zo's 2011 track "Rebound" served as the basis of "Let's Go," his new collaboration with Chris Brown.
As will.i.am certainly knows, all songwriters and producers have their influences and inspirations. However, sometimes those cross the line into downright thievery. Here's a look at pop music's biggest song-stealers of all time.
1. George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" and the Chiffons' "He's So Fine"
Late, great former Beatle George Harrison freely admitted that "My Sweet Lord," his first chart-topping solo hit, was inspired by another song. He once told me that the Edwin Hawkins Singers' version of "Oh Happy Day" served as the basis for one of his best-known songs.
"Basically, all I did was rewrite that song. I switched the chord sequence around a bit," George said. In fact, when the song was first recorded by Beatles' sideman Billy Preston, prior to the release of Harrison's version, the Edwin Hawkins Singers appeared on the track.
Strangely, George was sued for plagiarizing another song, the Chiffons' number one hit "He's So Fine." In one of the longest-running such cases in history, Harrison was found to have committed copyright infringement, but a U.S. District Court Judge later ruled that George hadn't done it intentionally.
Although George had to give up most of his royalties to "My Sweet Lord" and a percentage from All Things Must Pass--the album on which it appeared--he didn't walk away from the experience empty-handed. He wrote "This Song" about the court case, and later bought the rights to "He's So Fine."
2. Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Ice Baby" and Queen & David Bowie's "Under Pressure"
Long before Vanilla Ice went Amish, he was a pop star of some renown. His signature 1990 hit "Ice Ice Baby" heavily sampled Queen and David Bowie's 1981 collaboration "Under Pressure"--the only problem was that the cocky Iceman initially denied any such claims, saying he added an extra note that made the two melodies slightly different. But the two songs were obviously the same, even to the most casual listener.
Later Ice claimed he was only kidding, gave Queen and Bowie their due credit and royalties, and admitted he copped the sample after riffling through his brother's record collection.
3. Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" and Willie Dixon's "You Need Love"
The mighty Led Zeppelin freely admitted to being influence by the blues, but some think that influence crossed the line into song theft. The band has been the target of several copyright suits over the years. In the case of their 1969 classic "Whole Lotta Love" and Dixon's "You Need Love," recorded by Muddy Waters in 1962, the band settled out of court in 1985, and the song now includes Dixon's name on the credits.
Strangely, the Small Faces recorded a song called "You Need Loving," which also borrowed heavily from Dixon's tune, but they were never sued by Dixon.
Even stranger, Led Zeppelin has also been sued for 1969's "Dazed and Confused," a song that bass player John Paul Jones once claimed the band was jamming on when guitarist Jimmy Page stumbled upon the riff for "Whole Lotta Love." Page has said that wasn't the case and denies that he stole Jake Holmes's 1967 song, also titled "Dazed and Confused." The case over that song was "dismissed with prejudice" in January 2012, likely because it was settled out of court.
4. Fergie's "Fergalicious" and J.J. Fad's "Supersonic"
"Let's Go" isn't the first song will.i.am has been involved in that has created some copyright controversy. He was also a co-writer and producer of Fergie's 2006 hit "Fergalicious," which heavily samples the J.J. Fad 1987 hit "Supersonic."
While that song's writers--J.J. Fad members Dania Maria Birks (aka Baby-D), Juana Michelle Burns (aka MC J.B.) as well as Juanita A. Lee, Kim Hazel, and Fatima Shaheed--all received credit on the song, one name was missing.
In March 2009, one-time N.W.A member the Arabian Prince, who co-produced "Supersonic," sued Fergie's label over unpaid royalties. He also went after Eazy-E's widow Tamkia Wright, Ruthless Records, and Ruthless co-founder Jerry Heller for 20 percent of the royalties from the song.
5. John Fogerty's "The Old Man Down the Road" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Run Through the Jungle"
Probably the most bizarre case of copyright infringement ever emerged from the long-simmering battle between John Fogerty and Fantasy Records chief Saul Zaentz, who controlled the catalog and copyrights of Fogerty's former band Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Fogerty once told me that the long-time feud with Zaentz took its toll on him. "It did a lot of damage to my psyche and personality as far as confidence," he said. "There were times in those years when I was scared to go in and buy a pair of socks in a department store."
When Fogerty finally regained his confidence on his 1985 comeback album, Centerfield, Zaentz was there to mess with his mind again. First he threatened legal action over the lyrics to "Zantz Kant Danz," a thinly veiled stab at the record executive that includes the lyrics "Zanz can't dance/But he'll steal your money." Fogerty agreed to change the song's title to "Vann Kant Danz" on subsequent pressings of the album.
But Zaentz wasn't done. He sued Fogerty for plagiarizing himself by copying elements of CCR's "Run Through the Jungle," which Zaentz owned, on his "The Old Man Down the Road," although Fogerty had penned both songs.
In the end, Fogerty prevailed, and presumably he now has no trouble buying socks in department stores.
- Arts & Entertainment
- George Harrison
- Willie Dixon
- John Fogerty
- David Bowie